Wednesday, 3 July 2013

Game 32: Neuromancer - Clipping Angel's Wings

Tricky Journal Entry 14: "Bloody hell! I'd heard all about these AIs, but I didn't expect them to be so nasty! I was extremely fortunate not to get fried the first couple of times I encountered one, with only the evasion chip I got from Lupus saving my butt. I've followed in Dixie Flatline's footsteps however, and have actually figured out how to defeat these things! I've got a stack of awesome warez and skills, so if I play my cards right, I should be able to go anywhere and do anything I want pretty soon. I'm about to step out of the safety of zone 0, so here's hoping I'm not just getting overconfident. If you don't hear from me again, I guess I was!"


You could at least make the important clues more easily decipherable!

Before I continue my adventures in cyberspace, there’s a small victory that I had while writing my last post. I’d written about how certain I was that I’d missed something either on Zion or during my trip from Zion to Freeside with Maelcum. It was bugging me so much that I took a break from writing to load up a save game and give it another shot. I once again asked the Rastafarian old man on Zion everything I could think of, and this time tried hard to follow every lead that he gave me. He seemed particular fascinated with banks (in a negative way), so I asked him about “banks”. His answer seemed very promising indeed! “Freeside a Babylon port, mon. Several banks there, ya know? Which one you askin’ bout?” Since Bank Gemeinschaft seemed to be a big focal point of the game, I asked him about “gemeinschaft”, to which he responded with “Aerol seh BG1066 get him in th’ fron’ door there, mon.” Not sure who Aerol is, but BG1066 seemed a very likely code to get me into the bank on Freeside! I travelled with Maelcum to Freeside, walked into the bank, and tried entering “bg1066” when asked for a code. “Code verified. You may enter the vault.” Eureka!!!! Unfortunately, just as with the Bank of Berne, once inside the only thing I could do was enter cyberspace using the jack there, but I have a feeling this find will prove very useful later in the game.


I guess it was silly to expect actual money in a bank of the future

With that little tangent aside, let’s get back to cyberspace. The truth is that I’ve already spent five hours there!!! That’s right, as soon as I finished my post on Sunday morning, I played Neuromancer for five straight hours, only stopping for a bite to eat. It was obvious through it all that it would be downright silly to blog my way through the whole experience, since it really was just doing the same things over and over again. I also restarted a few hours into the session after running out of cash, which complicates my normal process further. I’m therefore going to summarise the experience, covering the highlights in detail while brushing over the completely repetitive and uninteresting bits. I’ll take it zone by zone though, since there seems no way to attack things in any other way. As mentioned in my last post, the Cheap Hotel jack leads to cyberspace zone 0, and starting off in any other zone leads to a quick and inevitable death. Matt Shaw had warned me about that earlier: “The ICE is softer at the bases you can reach from the Cheap Hotel’s jack, so brush up on your cyberspace techniques there first.” I began hacking into each of the bases on offer there, starting with Asano Computing. I was able to break in fairly easily with my Drill 1.0 and Hammer 1.0, and was rewarded with an extra menu option once in the base. It was called Inventory, and it did exactly what it said on the tin, displaying a full inventory of all hardware held at Asano. I wasn’t able to edit it or tinker with it in any way, so moved on.


How is this helpful?

I had a similar experience at Consumer Review. My Scout 1.0 software had previously told me that there were two access levels to the base, and since I’d only accessed the first level, I thought there would be something on offer through cyberspace. If there was, I couldn’t see it, as the list of decks and the information listed under each was exactly the same. Panther Moderns on the other hand had a greatly expanded Software Library, with BlowTorch 3.0, Decoder 2.0, ThunderHead 1.0 and Cyberspace 1.0 available to download! Mindbender 3.0 and Chaos Videosoft 1.0 were also there, but they were still incompatible with my deck. BlowTorch 3.0 and Decoder 2.0 turned out to be really effective ICE breakers, far better than the ones I had on my deck to this point (meaning they do far more damage with every hit). ThunderHead 1.0 was something I hadn’t seen to this point, being a slow acting virus that gradually does damage. When ThunderHead (or any other virus) hits the ICE, it changes the barrier from blue to green, and gradually does damage for its duration. Unfortunately, given how effective they are, these viruses can only be launched once before disappearing off the player’s deck. To be honest I’m not certain of the real purpose of Cyberspace 1.0. I’ve figured out that I can use it to enter cyberspace, but since I still need to be situated in a room containing a cyberspace jack, I don’t really see the point. Given my deck’s RAM will only allow 11 bits of software installed concurrently, I couldn’t afford to hang onto it. I also erased Scout 1.0 and Sequencer 1.0 (since I couldn’t see why I would need them anymore).


Fill yer deck gov'ner!

This is where things got really interesting! My new ICE breakers made destroying the ICE protecting the Psychologist base straight forward, but once it was gone I was faced with something I really wasn’t expecting! A white face appeared saying “Your destructive tendencies clearly indicate a desire for attention”. It then started attacking me in the same way that ICE had been, yet with much greater force! My warez seemed completely useless on it, literally having no effect! I was forced to use my Evasion skill to escape with my life, and even that failed a couple of times before successfully getting me out of there. “You’ll need to use more skills than that to beat me.” Huh?! What skills? Perhaps I needed to explore more bases until I found something that could damage this thing? I opened the manual and read the chapter on AIs, learning the following important information (I’m massively summarising here). “Certain bases contain a second line of defense – an AI. Modern AIs have personalities and mental capabilities far beyond the humans that originally created them. The Turing Registry has the responsibility of watching for signs that any AI might be developing into a dangerous, ultra-intelligent program. Some cowboys avoid combat with these formidable entities, because icebreaking softwarez can’t harm them. While it’s rumoured that there are skill chips available which allow mental combat with AIs, no one had lived long enough to talk about the details. The late McCoy Pauley, aka Dixie Flatline, is said to have run into AIs in three different bases, and supposedly only survived because he found a weakness in each AI.”


Come on! Let me get away from this bitch!

Whatever the weakness was for the Psychologist AI, I didn’t have it, so I moved onto Regular Fellows. There was no AI waiting for me there, and I was able to pick up Probe 3.0 from the expanded Checkout Counter inside. That left only one base in zone 0, which was the World Chess Confederation. I was really hopeful that I would be able to make some easy cash in this base, but that idea was squashed when I once again came face to face with an AI! “It’s a Fool’s Mate, my friend. Surrender while you still can.” Just as before, none of my warez or skills seemed to have any effect on the AI, so I was forced to use Evasion. “Thought you could beat me, ha! You couldn’t even beat that wimp Chrome.” I’d had a quick attempt to access bases in zone 1 from the Gentleman Loser jack, and it had been seriously tough going. For this reason I was very keen to do everything I could in zone 0 before having another crack at other zones. I had a think about what other skills I’d seen throughout the game, and the ones that came to mind as potentially useful were the Psychoanalysis, Phenomenology, Philosophy and Logic chips that I’d seen on sale at Julius Deane’s and the Matrix Restaurant. I’d not found any use for them earlier, and Logic in particular seemed very likely to be useful against the World Chess Confederation AI, so I rushed off and purchased all four of them (it’s worth pointing out that I already had Sophistry after giving the Holy Joystick to Nolan)!


To think I originally missed these!

With my new skills implanted, and just over $2000 left in my kitty, I had another go at breaking into the Psychologist base. Using Logic did fire a pink bolt at the intelligence, but it had no effect. Psychoanalysis was the second one I tried, but the bolt rebounded and came back and hit me: “Subject weakness: Unknown”. So the Psychoanalysis skill is used to find out what an AI’s weakness is! Unfortunately it didn’t work in this case, particularly as my vertical bar had gone into the red! Phenomenology didn’t do any damage, so I tried Philosophy, getting pretty desperate at this point. When my Philosophy bolt made contact with the AI, it shouted “Psychopath!” at me, and I did significant damage to it! My EEG monitor was displaying red at this point, so I used my Zen skill to bring it back under control (I’d learnt this through experimentation earlier on). My software was being wiped out one at a time, but since I only needed my skills, continued on with much determination. Once I’d broken through with the Philosophy skill, I was able to attack the AI with Logic, Philosophy and Sophistry, all of which caused various degrees of damage. I must have been awfully close to dying when the AI finally crumbled: “You are nothing but a worm and you will die...like...a worm! Aarrgh!” I was in!!!


Apparently...not!

As exciting as this superb victory was, I really didn’t get much out of the Psychologist base. I’m probably missing the whole purpose of it, but I’ve never found a reason why I would want to tell the “psychologist” my concerns. All the same menu items were there that I’d seen previously with the addition of a Software Library. The software library contained Thunderhead 1.0, which I could already get from Panther Moderns. On the positive side, my Phenomenology, Philosophy, Sophistry and Logic skills had all increased to level 2 after beating the AI! I say this like I immediately figured it out while playing, but the truth is that it took me at least an hour to figure out that my skills were increasing by beating AIs. I’d been restoring my game fairly often so I could approach each base with a full kit of useful warez, but in doing so I was losing my skill increases and facing increasingly difficult AIs, getting completely crushed over and over. Once I knew it though, I was able to progress pretty quickly. As expected, Logic was the key to defeating the World Chess Confederation AI, with the AI saying “Good move” when struck. Even with my increased skills, I was still on the verge of dying when I finally defeated it. “I surrender; the game is yours.” I was quite sure that I was going to be able to somehow rig the chess tournaments so that I won heaps of money, and I was even more confident when I discovered BattleChess 4.0 in the Software Library on the base!


I didn't get this far in philosophy at uni!

I downloaded a copy to my deck and joined a tournament, preparing to watch the money roll in. I was asked which software I wanted to upload to play, so I naturally chose BattleChess 4.0. “Incompatible software”! What do you mean incompatible software? BattleChess 2.0 worked! Why wouldn’t 4.0? Was I supposed to make it compatible somehow? Why was it on the base if it couldn’t be used? I set all these questions aside for the time being, and checked out the other newly accessible section on the base. The AI Message Buffer had a couple of messages on it, both of which were addressed to Morphy. The first one was from Greystoke: “The AI destruct program that Turing developed to destroy me is missing from their vault! I am unable to locate it! If you know where it is, inform me immediately! If it falls into the wrong hands, Neuromancer may win! This cannot happen!” Well that sure was interesting! I could only assume that Greystoke was an AI, as Turing was the corporation tasked with making sure AIs didn’t get too advanced. This was also the first time that I’d heard the word Neuromancer in the game. Who or what is Neuromancer? Is Morphy also an AI? Was Morphy the AI that I just defeated? Very interesting indeed! The second message was from Hal, and was a warning to Morphy that there appeared to be an AI who’s a chess master, who goes by the name Phantom. I hadn’t come across the name elsewhere, so wasn’t sure what I was supposed to do with that information.


Why did they tease me with this!?

Having defeated another AI, my four AI hacking skills were now all upgraded to 3. That, along with the nice collection of powerful ICE breakers I’d collected, made me feel ready to move onto the next cyberspace zone. I left Cheap Hotel, went next door to Gentleman Loser, and jacked into zone 1! Just as I did in zone 0, I saved my game and explored the zone, using my Probe software, now at level 3.0, to find out what bases were in there. There were 10 to be explored: Chiba City Central Justice System, Citizens For a Free Matrix, Copenhagen University, Eastern Seaboard Fission Authority, Gentleman Loser, Internal Revenue Service, NASA, Software Enforcement Agency, Chiba City Tactical Police and Tozoku. I should be able to get through all of them in my next post now that I’ve explained how things work in cyberspace. While it probably wouldn’t seem like it, this post covers more than half of my five hour session! I really did jump around, and struggled to beat the AIs due to my playing style. I also wasted time going through old screenshots looking for clues that just weren’t there, and restarted at least once. I hope those of you that are still here will join me in a couple of days as I near the climax of the game. Let’s hope those readers that have been scared away by Neuromancer will come back for Space Quest III!


Zone 1, here we come!

Session Time: 3 hours 00 minutes
Total Time: 12 hours 00 minutes

Note Regarding Spoilers and Companion Assist Points: I've written a set of rules regarding spoilers and companion assist points. Please read it here before making any comments that could be considered a spoiler in any way. The short of it is that no points will be given for hints or spoilers given in advance of me requiring one. Please...try not to spoil any part of the game for me...unless I really obviously need the help...or I specifically request assistance. In this instance, I've not made any requests for assistance. Thanks!

40 comments:

  1. Wow, didn't expect this amount of progress from your next post, good work!

    I will say though, you have totally missed the point of the Cyberspace 1.0 software.
    Hint if you can't figure it out: Qb lbh frr ab qvssrerapr orgjrra PbzYvax 6.0 naq Plorefcnpr 1.0 juvyr pbaarpgrq?
    Spoiler: Plorefcnpr 1.0 znxrf pbaarpgvat serr!

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    1. Wow. I've played Neuromancer countless times in the past, yet I never realized that. Guess that's because ol gung cbvag V'q nyernql znantrq gb fgrny gur 30x sebz gur nppbhag ng Trzrvafpunsg naq qvqa'g pner zhpu nobhg zl nffrgf nalzber?

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    2. Yeah, could be. I found them the other way around, so for me it was really useful. :p

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    3. Amazingly, Trickster apparently has managed to explore cyberspace without the help of either. That sure shows some skill!

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    4. Oh, he hasn't reached the end yet. :p

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    5. I never found Lupus until near the end, so it's possible to get by. It's nice to see alternatives in a game this old.

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    6. Speaking of alternatives, I wonder whether Tricky will miss Rnfl Evqre also.

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    7. Can you beat the game without that?

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    8. I'm very worried after reading these comments! What have I missed!?

      I've got so far without assistance. I shall soldier on!

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    9. Zenic: I thought we established it could. XTO-cebtenz yrg'f lbh trg va gur plorefcnpr nern jvgu XTO-onfr. Bgure nernf pna or culfvpnyyl ybttrq va. Gur zbfg qvssvphyg jbhyq cebonoyl or gur ynfg nern, orpnhfr gur ebbz lbh fubhyq ybt va rngf lbhe pbafgvghgvba.

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    10. Don't worry Trickster, you haven't broken the game. You haven't made it any easier for yourself, but haven't broken it. ;)

      Oh, so that's what the XTO-cebtenz vf sbe. V arire sbhaq bhg vgf hfrf, fb V fpenccrq vg cerggl dhvpxyl. Thanks for clearing that up for me Ilmari.

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    11. Gah, it's already been too long: Vs ur fxvcf rnfl evqre, gura V vzntvar uvz fxvccvat XTO nf jryy. Sbe fbzr ernfba V oynaxrq ba ubj gb ernpu gur svany nern jvgubhg rnfl evqre fvapr V arire gbbx n frpbaq gevc bhg bs Puvon naq arire tnvarq npprff gb gung bar onpx.

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  2. Todays GoG adventure bundle, The Unwritten Saga and the Critter Chronicles, $9.98. Anybody tried them?

    http://www.gog.com/promo/the_unwritten_saga

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  3. Smashing job, Trickster! Your scientific approach to the game is really bearing fruit. Can't wait to see you delving further into the scary depths of cyberspace.
    By the way, I just re-played Space Quest III yesterday :)

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  4. You're well on your way to putting this game behind you. I'm glad for the slow updates as I've been focusing on getting through my own list of games. I'm expecting with the holiday weekend I might get through another game by the time you wrap up.

    I'm going to skip over Space Quest III, but don't take it personally. I never could get into Space Quest. I will definitely play along for the following two (need to climb up that leaderboard a bit more).

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    1. I never got into Space Quest either, but I'm taking this as an opportunity to right some old wrongs. Going to play along on SQ3.

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    2. Having been initiated to the wonders of adventure gaming by SQ3, these comments sound like total blasphemy ;) I will probably skip it still, because I remember it too well.

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    3. Does SQ ever move away from the text parser? If so, then I might join for that game. Text parsers always have a way of frustrating me.

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    4. Sierra gave up parser after King's Quest 5 (well, it kind of used it again with Larry 7). So, beginning with Space Quest 4 you should not have to worry about parser anymore. SQ4 was actually the first non-parser adventure game I played, and I remember trying furiously to write commands with no result :)

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    5. Space Quest 3 I'm definitely in for - mind, it's a game I had as a young'un, so I think I may actually be able to speedrun it in about an hour.

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    6. I've played Space Quest III before, so I imagine I'll make up time on it. It has been quite a few years though!

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    7. It's a very clear and sequential game, and with the exception of a couple of arcade sequences it's really just a matter of ticking boxes if you know which ones you're ticking. It was back in the simpler age of my gaming history where a game was expected to last a few weeks at least, meaning that even a linear game required a few replays.

      Always found it fun, though.

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    8. I remember I found SQ3 too easy. I finished it in 2 days, and was quite disappointed in it's ease and brevity. I did thoroughly enjoy it though and remember some very laugh out loud moments. I might play along when we get there.

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  5. Still reading, still enjoying. :)

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  6. 20 CAPs for the first person to figure out what the title of this post is referencing and why.

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  7. I have an MFA in poetry - so my guess is Keats, "philosophy will clip an Angel's wings / conquer all mysteries by rule and line" from Lamia.

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    1. You are absolutely correct Joseph, and I'm really happy that someone knows that. I did however want an explanation as to why I used it. How many CAPs you receive will depend on whether you can answer that. I'm sure it's quite obvious to anyone that has read the whole post.

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    2. Why, breaking the AI with the Philosophy skill, of course!

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    3. 20 CAPs to you it is! Sorry to be so pedantic, but I've learnt over time that there are other readers here that are more pedantic than even me. They catch me out every time!

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    4. Someday there will be a Star Wars reference in the title, or a obscure computer joke, or something D&D themed.... someday...

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  8. So what do you guys think about the Broken Age (The Double Fine Adventure Kickstarter) news?

    For those that Kickstarted it it's in the latest update on KS, for the rest you can find the note on the bottom of this article from Kotaku: http://kotaku.com/somehow-tim-schafers-adventure-kickstarter-needs-more-652014092

    For me personally, it's not that much of a big deal. I think that making the game as good as it should be ought to be the main priority. And if that means delaying the second half and selling the first to generate income for the remaining half to be made, it's still better than the alternatives.

    My disappointment however comes from the fact that they realized all this only now, so late in the production.

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    1. Hmmmm...not sure how I feel.

      On the one hand, I'd rather them not cut corners and make an inferior product. That would lead to disappointment and people not backing more projects as a roll on effect. I also think that the way he's communicated is honest, and he seemingly has the backers and potential players in mind.

      On the other hand though, it's a pretty big failure on their part, and in the end they're really not fulfilling their end of the bargain. I'm yet to get into bite sized episodic games because I just hate waiting between releases. I will always wait until the entire game or series is completed before playing, as I like to get my teeth into a game and live it from start to finish without distractions or lengthy breaks. I'd be pretty disappointed if I had of backed this project.

      Maybe that's just me though!

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    2. I agree with you. I started the Back to the Future adventure game when there were two or three episodes released, and after I did those and had to wait for the rest, I never went back and finished it. I'm guessing I'll wait until both halves of the game are out to play it as well, but what I'll do when the first is actually out remains to be seen. :p

      As it's been almost a year and a half since the KS period thankfully I'm not missing the money any more, and it feels like I'm waiting for a "free game".

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    3. Yeah, definitely don't like episodes. So much so that I've never started one before all episodes were released. Speaking of episodic releases. Does any one know if/when the last episode of Not King's Quest 9: The Silver Lining is being released. I have all the released episodes but won't start playing them until the final episode is released

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    4. As far as I can gather from peeking in the forums, it's a work in progress and will be released "when it's done". They won't even say whether it will be in 2013 or not.

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    5. I'm a backer of this game and am not concerned (partly because I only paid $15) but what really annoys me is that they just kickstarted their second game a week ago.

      I didn't pledge on their second game, but many of those who did must be feeling somewhat deceived. The company had to know about their money problems before that campaign, but waited until 6 days after the money was received before making their inability to properly manage money public.

      I wonder how successful their second campaign would have been if they'd started it today instead.

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    6. Well, I think this is pretty obviously the downside of having your artistic people in charge: They aren't usually the best managers. As much as they hate it, I think they do need someone saying "No, you can't put in that even though it is awesome, we have a budget. The budget is their so we can pay you. So you can eat. So you don't starve."

      I think we need to find a balance between totally artistic, screw the publishers, and the current broken model of publishers screwing over developers. However, balance is the single thing humans are the absolute worst at.

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  9. Last day of GoG sales, all bundles and games from the rest of the sale available again. Better go snatch up the last ones!

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    1. It's never the last day for sales! GoG still has weekly sales that last through the weekend.

      Pick up numerous adventure games from Simon the Sorcerer to Tex Murphy. Broken Sword, Gobliiins, Runaway, and more. All are 60%, buy together or buy individually!

      http://www.gog.com/promo/adventures_weekend_promo_050713

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